Visit to Gambia Is Good (GIG) Community Farm
Concern Universal is helping local communities to grow fresh produce that can be sold to hotels, restaurants and supermarkets. Over 1000 women have been trained by the GIG project. The women are selected from their communities and training is carried out on the farms. When they return home they are supported and visited by their trainers on a regular basis.
The women learn about crop planning; what is needed in months ahead and what the market demands. They learn about crop rotation and its importance to control pests and disease as well as maintain soil structure.
At the farm they were experimenting with breeding ducks. The meat is in demand by the local hotels. The ducks were being fed on couscous, herbs and fruit. Their manure was being used for fertiliser. A manure tea is made using droppings from cows, goats, sheep and poultry. The manure is put into a cloth bag in a barrel of water and after 3 days the organic fertiliser is ready to use when mixed with added water.
Aubergines, cauliflower, broccoli and courgettes were also being grown for the hoteliers. The courgettes were proving the most difficult to produce because of fruit fly infestation. They were being sprayed every three days with a liquid made from soaking leaves from the Neem tree which acts as an insect repellent.
In 2006, 500,000 dalasi was being paid to local producers. This has increased to 2.9 million dalasi in 2010. Approximately 65%of hotel produce is supplied by local farmers.
At the farm we watched cakes being cooked in a solar oven. There was also a parabolic solar cooker. Wood has become a scarce commodity and in some areas it has become illegal to crop. Most cooking is on open fires with pans on three supporting rocks. The cooking fires are sited in small huts that quickly fill with smoke. This is an ongoing health problem especially for babies who are carried on their mothers’ backs and whose faces are directly in the smoke when their mothers are bending over to cook.
The Concern Universal project is helping many women in rural areas, who previously had virtually no income ,to now earn up to £150 a month . The GIG Farm visit was a great ending to the trip.